Any students of philosophy recognize time and space as illusionary aspects of one eternal unity, each manifesting to finite conception in a threefold manner.
Owing to the limitations of the human mind, we divide time into past, present and future; but on the highest plane all time-limitations melt into one eternal Now. Our conception of space on this physical plane is the result of the imperfection of the human organs of physical sight, and therefore is restricted and imperfect. Gazing at a landscape, we say that such an object is five, ten, or twenty miles distant; our knowledge of perspective, gained from experience, helping us to guess more or less correctly apparent distances; while the child reaches for the moon as confidently as for the nearest toy. A painter, who causes that to appear near, which he intended for a distant object and vice versa, violates the laws of perspective.
Imagine a straight row of houses extending for ten miles across a level plain, all precisely of the same size, and fifty or one hundred feet apart. An ignorant observer stationed at one end of the line, at an angle where the houses can all be seen, might say that they grow smaller and nearer together while receding from him. Neither conclusion is true. The eye is an imperfect organ and deceives the observer, as he will find by calling to his aid a good field-glass. Now objects eight or ten miles distant appear to be close at hand; and if the glass is reversed, they seem perhaps twenty or thirty miles away. From this we gather that an eye superior to the illusions of perspective could see the last house in line as minutely as the nearest one, and it would appear to be no further away. Similarly in regard to what we call time. Events transpiring at the present moment are mentally viewed at close contact, like the first house; those of yesterday are not so distinct, and may be compared to some house farther down the line. Yet some one may say, "I remember a certain event which took place years ago and it seems but yesterday." Exactly! — for now he is using his field-glass so to speak. It is said, that at the moment of death the whole past presents itself in successive details to the mind. Why? Because the soul is shaking off those vibrations which make up the physical body and which, having their origin in the physical brain, hold it to our distinctions of past and present, through the illusions of mental perspective. Then the soul losing its grasp on outward things, turns inward, and in that temporary concentration on its own personality is enabled to focus its whole past in the present moment. On the other hand, the present fleeting moment may become for us indefinitely lengthened thus showing our almost complete servitude to time; but by him who has mastered the secret of time, a lifetime can be measured at a glance.
It is held by some that it is possible to bring to the minds of men so vivid a realization of a past event that the illusionary veil dividing the past from the present may be rent asunder, and the event itself projected onto the physical plane. This may be in part mentally realized while witnessing, for instance, the play of Julius Caesar.
Transported by the magic power of sympathy to those stirring times, we are now in Rome and do as the Romans do. We thrill with the splendid rhetoric of Marullus, and, while we listen to the wily eloquence of Antony, the fate of Brutus trembles in the balance.
The father of song strikes the bardic string, and that heroic note vibrating down the ages finds responsive echo in the heart today. Again the Grecian watch-fires are blazing round the walls of Troy. Yet once again sounds forth the voice of Andromache, as she stands beneath the towers of wind-swept Ilium and bids farewell to Hector, going forth to meet his doom.
Time appears to move in cycles, but all so-called circular motion is in reality spiral. A circular saw revolves on its axis and at the same time is carried from west to east by the rotating globe. The Earth moves round the sun in its orbit but because the sun is travelling in its own path, the earth is never twice in the same place. So too on a higher plane than the physical, the plane of mind, for instance, motion is spiral and each mental experience is different from its cyclic predecessor.
I have spoken of the past and present, but what of the future? If the first two are illusionary aspects of one eternal Now, it follows that the future belongs to the same category. The old saying, "There is nothing new under the sun," expresses a deeper truth than some may imagine. If everything progresses in cycles then knowledge of the past may be a key to knowledge of the future and the future, a projection of the past. Remembering that the Universe as a whole is on an upward spiral trend, it follows that the future will resemble the past in general outline, though fuller and richer in detail; or we can consider it to be the past seen from a higher and better point of view; in other words its correspondent on higher planes.
Again, if the manifesting trinity, past, present, and future, are merely finite divisions of one eternal Now, it necessarily follows that the spirit existing in man today, existed in the past and will continue in the future, and what applies to man must apply to everything in the universe. The form or garb of every entity in the different kingdoms of nature undergoes change; for form expresses the degree of evolutionary progress attained by the inner entity in its usually unconscious attempt, — under the guiding power of higher intelligences — to recognize its unity with what is above and beyond finite conception of form.
If such finite conceptions as time and distance are only limitations we put upon Divine Unity, it follows that there are no distinctions of great and small to the divine mind and vision. The microscope bears witness to the wonderful perfection of detail in the smallest things, and rivals as a revealer the telescope itself.
Man in his evolutionary progress toward that goal which stands at the apex of the spiral, has been constantly taking thought of the morrow and its new sensations, and, like the traveller circling the globe, he seems to himself to move in a straight line. And yet, man has circled the globe many times in previous rounds and races; and if everything appears new to him now, it is because he then failed and still fails to comprehend its real significance; for, mark well! as everything is a seeming part of a real indivisible whole; a true knowledge of one thing means a knowledge of all.
He who is driven round the spiral of past, present and future, by selfish desire, contacts at every point the results of past causes; but for him who has freed himself from the disquieting and blinding results of passion, the sun never sets. Morning, noon, and midnight are the same, for the eternal spiritual Sun sheds its beams upon him; and, in its pure light, illusion vanishes; past, present and future present themselves simultaneously to his mental vision; distance vanishes. Starting at the centre his eye sweeps the circumference of the circle, and he knows that the centre and circumference are one.
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